The International Airline Program (IAP) is one of the lesser known perks of the Amex Platinum Card, and it offers discounts on international premium cabin airfares. In some cases the savings can be huge, and more than justify the annual fees on cards. In this post I wanted to cover everything you need to know about the program.
What is the Amex International Airline Program?
With the Amex International Airline Program, you can get exclusive savings on select airlines when booking through American Express. There are some basic things to be aware of:
- The Amex IAP is available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
- The Amex IAP is valid for international itineraries in first class, business class, and premium economy
- The Amex IAP can be used on both refundable and non-refundable tickets
- The Amex IAP can be used to purchase anywhere from one to eight tickets on the same flight
- The Amex IAP offers discounts for flights originating in the United States, or select Canadian gateways
Which airlines qualify for the Amex International Airline Program?
The Amex International Airline Program is valid for select itineraries on the following 25+ airlines:
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Japan Airlines
- KLM Royal Dutch
- Korean Air
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
How do you book Amex International Airline Program tickets?
There are two ways to book a ticket through the Amex International Airline Program — you can either call Amex, or book through the Amex Travel website.
If you want to book by phone, call Amex Travel at one of the following numbers (note that bookings by phone are subjected to a $39 per person ticketing fee):
My preferred way to book is online, since it makes it easier to compare options, and it avoids having to pick up the phone. To look up Amex International Airline Program fares and book, simply go to amextravel.com, and then log into the account associated with your Amex Platinum. At that point search an eligible international itinerary.
After starting your search, you’ll notice that some results have “International Airline Program Platinum Card Benefit” written at the top, and those will be the options that are discounted. The original cost of the ticket will have a line through it, and then the “cheaper” price will display. For example, looking at a roundtrip nonstop Air France first class ticket between New York and Paris, the fare is discounted by around $1,000.
You’ll also see the option of redeeming Amex points for one cent each for these tickets, though we’ll talk a bit more about that below.
Of course it goes without saying that a roundtrip nonstop first class ticket for $7,000+ might not be the most affordable option available through the program. There are definitely better deals out there, though the savings won’t always be quite as big — generally the more expensive the ticket, the bigger the savings.
For example, you can fly roundtrip Virgin Atlantic business class from New York to Delhi for $2,198 through the program, which are savings of around $180 compared to the regular price of $2,379.
There are lots of options to sort results through Amex’s website, and you can narrow them down by the airline, travel time, number of stops, etc.
Combine Amex International Airline Program & Amex Pay with Points
As you can see above, you can use the Amex Pay With Points program to pay for an Amex IAP ticket either partly or entirely with points (you do need to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points, though).
On the surface, both the Amex Personal Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card offer one cent of value towards the cost of a ticket. That means a $2,000 ticket would cost you 200,000 Membership Rewards points, which isn’t a very good deal.
Fortunately, the business version of the card has a 35% rebate on this feature, with some restrictions:
- It’s valid for first and business class flights on any airline, or for any flight with your designated qualifying airline
- You can get up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year using this method
- The 35% rebate is refunded after the fact, and will appear 6-10 weeks after the purchase appears on your billing statement
In other words, if you redeemed 200,000 Amex points for $2,000 worth of travel, you’d get 70,000 points back. So you’d essentially be paying 130,000 points for $2,000 worth of airfare, which is a value of ~1.54 cents per point.
Getting 1.54 cents of value per Amex point while also getting savings on your ticket is a pretty awesome combo.
Earn 5x points on Amex International Airline Program tickets
One of the other awesome things about booking through the Amex International Airline Program is that if you pay for your ticket with the Amex Personal Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, you’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points. That’s because both cards offer 5x points on airfare booked through Amex Travel. I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, that equates to an 8.5% return on those purchases.
On top of that, both versions of the Amex Platinum offer travel coverage in the event of irregular operations, including a trip being canceled, delayed, or interrupted. So by using one of these cards you’re not only earning 5x points, but you’re also getting valuable coverage.
Do you earn miles for Amex International Airline Program tickets?
Tickets booked through the Amex International Airline Program are eligible for mileage accrual, regardless of whether you pay cash or redeem Amex points using the Pay With Points feature. That’s because this is a fully paid ticket, and will qualify as such.
You can expect that you’ll earn miles and receive any elite perks as you usually would if booking direct. The one consideration would be that if you’re flying an airline with a revenue based frequent flyer program, you might earn miles at a slightly different pace than usual.
For example, American Airlines has a special mileage earning chart for “special fares,” which often includes third party bookings. With this, you earn miles as a percentage of distance flown, based on your fare class. In some cases that could even be advantageous.
What about Amex Insider Fares?
Since we’re talking about discounted Amex airfare, I think it’s also worth mentioning Amex Insider Fares, which are similar in some ways, but ultimately different. What are Amex Insider fares?
- Amex Insider Fares offer discounts when redeeming points for a ticket through the Pay With Points feature on Amex Travel
- Amex Insider Fares are available to all cards earning Amex Membership Rewards points, and not just the Amex Platinum; fares will automatically show up when logged in on the Amex Travel website and doing a flight search
- This is sometimes even available on domestic itineraries, unlike the Amex International Airline Program
- Amex Insider Fares can be stacked with the up to 35% Pay With Points discount, but can’t be stacked directly with the Amex International Airline Program
This is worth being aware of, because when you do searches on Amex’s website, you may see some show up as Insider Fares, and some show up as being part of the International Airline Program.
My strategy with the Amex International Airline Program
What’s my strategy for using the Amex International Airline Program? In many cases airlines are pricing international premium cabins more reasonably than ever before, as they go after leisure travelers. So even though I have a lot of miles to redeem, I’m often browsing Google Flights looking for good paid first & business class fares.
Whenever I find a fare that I might be interested in booking, I always go to Amex Travel and see if there are any discounts available through the International Airline Program, and often there are. In that case it’s a no brainer to book through the program, so I can also earn 5x points on the purchase, and even get great travel coverage.
For those with the Amex Business Platinum Card, I think it could also make sense to use the Pay With Points feature, because in the end each point could get you 1.54 cents towards the cost of a premium cabin airfare purchase, which is solid.
The Amex International Airline Program is one of my favorite perks of both the Amex Personal Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card. If you fly international premium cabins with any frequency, the savings afforded by the program can be huge, and pay for your annual fee over and over.
When you’re getting ready to book an international premium cabin ticket (even if it’s premium economy), I always recommend taking a look at Amex Travel to see what kind of a fare is being offered.
What has your experience been with the Amex International Airline Program? Have you ever used it?